As a young boy, I only really knew of 2 sports – cricket and rugby. My Father was passionate about both, but more so cricket. My summers were spent walking the boundaries of various cricket grounds across the North-West of England and it never occurred to me that there were any other sports in the world that share some of the same characteristics and skills. Many years later I sit here now completely and utterly won over by pesäpallo, trying to widen the fan base of the sport to a global audience. Having discovered pesäpallo later in life, I came to realise that there are so many similarities between pesäpallo and cricket. So why should someone who is a cricket fan start watching pesäpallo?
1. Pesis has the high speed and pace of any cricket T20 match
If you are used to test cricket, then the pace of T20 is perhaps a little harder to take in the first place, but T20 is growing in popularity because of its high intensity and excitement. If you are looking for something similar (or even quicker paced) then you definitely should watch pesäpallo. There is no waiting around for bowlers to start their run up or delays following an out. In Pesäpallo everything is so fast paced that it can be almost dizzying for new fans of the game to get to grips with the rules. The speed at which the ball is thrown about from fielder to fielder can be in excess of 90mph and the amount of opportunities batters have to run the bases makes the game highly entertaining and well worth a watch.
2. Strategy and tactics rule in Pesäpallo
The beating heart of cricket (certainly in terms of batting) is good shot selection mixed with placement and skill. Remarkably, the same is true of pesäpallo. Despite the outward appearance resembling baseball, the nature and spirit of batting is fundamentally the same as in cricket. Unlike in baseball, batters in pesäpallo have a wide range of hits to choose from and the ability to choose when to run or not (albeit there is a limit of 3 “strikes”). The fact that batters make contact with the ball on virtually every good pitch, means that the batter’s ability to choose the right shot and place the ball is of high importance in pesäpallo. The tactics that flow from this are similar to cricket and it can be very familiar to fans.
3. The ball remains in play even when it goes out of bounds
In Pesäpallo a fair hit remains in play even after it leaves the field of play – in outdoor games during the summer this can lead to players leaping into canals and rivers in pursuit or scurrying into woodlands. Maybe this doesn’t remind you of high profile cricket matches at first, but when you consider the frantic nature of fielding in pesäpallo, it certainly looks far more familiar to cricket fans than fans of baseball. This adds an extra level of excitement to games and highlights the grit and determination of players to retrieve the ball. In baseball different rules apply and there is little excitement watching a ball bounce into the stands for a ground rule double. For anyone who has played cricket at club level, the familiar sight of heading off into a field or wooded area next to the pitch looking for a ball will bring back many memories…
4. Fielding placement and tactics are similar to cricket
Much like batting tactics, there is a fundamental similarity between fielding in cricket and pesäpallo. Placement of fielders in both sports is crucial and covering gaps in the field is one of a number of factors that the fielding team have to consider. Even considering whether to allow a run in pesäpallo, but stop a bigger score is also seen in cricket when the fielding team stop the boundaries at the expense of a single. But the similarities actually go much deeper than that. The tempo of the game in pesäpallo is central to the fielding team’s tactics and strategy. This mirrors some of the tactics used in cricket, where bowlers who have found good line and length may want to get the ball back and start the next delivery quickly. Likewise, in cricket the fielding team may want to take slightly longer before the next delivery so that they can rearrange the field, or try and disrupt any rhythm that the batter has got into.
5. Pesäpallo has a competitive men’s and women’s league system, with all matches available on TV
Cricket stands apart from a lot of other sports in that it has a competitive and high profile system for women. The Women’s Big Bash League in Australia draws in huge crowds and is broadcast nationally. Of note is also the thriving international cricket scene for women, with the T20 cricket World Cup in 2020 being the highlight of the sporting calendar with a half time show featuring Katie Perry. It may surprise cricket fans to know that such an equal standing is seen in pesäpallo, with the men’s and women’s top league (Superpesis) gaining equal status on the TV streaming service Ruutu. Both men’s and women’s teams compete in Superpesis leagues and have strong followings in Finland. The men’s and women’s East v West games (the equivalent of the All Star game) take centre stage during each summer and are also shown on TV. Much like cricket, women’s participation in pesäpallo is long established and can be far more entertaining than the men’s games.